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Rebuilding Iraq Still A Vague Operation

Despite the problems facing Iraq, many nations participating -- there were some 60 delegations, including from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund -- pledged support but readily admitted the security challenge.
by William M. Reilly
UPI U.N. Correspondent
Sharm El-Sheik, Egypt (UPI) May 03, 2007
A five-year Iraqi reconstruction plan was formally launched Thursday at a high-level meeting of representatives of Iraq's friends, including Iran and the United States.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon inaugurated the International Compact with Iraq at the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheik on the Red Sea. It followed a year's preparation, co-chaired by Iraq and the United Nations, and the two chaired the morning and afternoon sessions. Of the high-level attendees, about one-third were foreign ministers.

Nevertheless, the plan was vague in its details. Still, conference attendees did not hesitate to say what they didn't like and to voice what their expectations were.

The ministers of neighboring countries, the G8 leading industrialized nations plus China and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council -- Britain, China, France Russia and the United States -- are staying over in the resort town to meet Friday on Iraq.

The Middle East diplomatic Quartet of the European Union, Russia, the United Nations and the United States will meet informally Friday in consultations at Sharm el-Sheik to review the situation around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. No formal statement is expected since it is not regarded as a formal meeting. U.N. officials have expressed disappointment there would not be a formal meeting.

While the United States has been coy about whether there would be a meeting between Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her Iranian counterpart, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, Tehran has said the pair will meet.

U.N. Undersecretary-General Ibrahim Gambari will co-chair the global compact, as the Iraq accord has come to be called, with Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih.

Despite the problems facing Iraq, many nations participating -- there were some 60 delegations, including from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund -- pledged support but readily admitted the security challenge.

Ban, on his fourth trip to the Middle East since taking office Jan. 1, said the delegations' presence alone signaled commitment.

Ban welcomed Baghdad's presence and said Iraq's Maliki "has pledged to pursue a bold program of reform to safeguard his country's long-term economic future. His government is also determined to seek progress in the political and security fields which -- I believe we can all agree -- are prerequisites for Iraq's normalization and economic revitalization."

Said Ban, "Beyond the terrorist attacks and sectarian violence, a humanitarian crisis is stretching the patience and ability of ordinary people to cope with everyday life. This makes it all the more important to develop a framework for Iraq's normalization. Essentially the compact provides a road map for the next five years aimed at helping Iraq to achieve its long-term goals of economic prosperity, political stability and lasting security."

Maliki said during the conference there was "a list of issues" his government has to take care of and that "one of the major reasons" for problems with security in Iraq is "external intervention," calling for "no intervention in the internal affairs of Iraq."

This was seen as particularly directed at Iran for allegedly aiding Sunni Muslims in Iraq.

"The government of national unity is serious," he said. "We must limit the arms coming into the state and promote the rule of law."

Besides security, the prime minister said Baghdad's debt from under former President Saddam Hussein's regime was a major burden. "We call on you to write off debts which are from the old regime," he said.

Countries are writing off as much as 80 percent of Iraq's debt under an accord of the Paris Club, a major group of debt-holding nations.

Meetings on the margins may prove more interesting than the compact confab. The bilateral meetings range from those held between neighbors to the possibility of sessions between Syria and the United States on Lebanon and the United States and Iran on Tehran's nuclear program.

Ban met Wednesday with Rice and discussed Darfur, Kosovo, Lebanon the work of the Middle East Quartet and the Arab peace initiative, in addition to the Iraq Compact.

Rice met with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit, host of the conference, and Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal.

Arab League Secretary-General Amr Mousa, who appeared hale and hearty entering the conference, was later reported ill, and his remarks were read by a deputy.

Source: United Press International

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Washington (UPI) May 03, 2007
U.S. fatalities are rising again in Iraq, but the strategy that is exposing them has also saved many lives. As has been widely reported, April marked the worst month of the more than 4-year-old insurgency in terms of fatalities suffered by U.S. troops in Iraq. In all, 104 of them died during the month, yielding an average rate through April of 3.1 per day.

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